Killington’s Mogul Queens
An iconic Vermont mountain community shapes some of the world’s greatest female skiers
Professional mogul skier and Killington local Hannah Soar can’t remember her first day on skis at 18 months old. But she confidently credits her skyrocketing career to bell-to-bell black-diamond bump runs down Superstar each spring wearing a tie-dye T-shirt. Now, after a lifetime of grooming at The Beast of the East and having competed for more than a decade, Soar is gaining recognition at her sport’s most elite level.

In December 2019, she earned her inaugural Freestyle Ski World Cup podium finish, placing third in the circuit’s dual moguls event at Thaiwoo, China. Less than two months later—and a mere 48 hours after stationing herself as the top American in single moguls with a fourth-place World Cup finish at Utah’s Deer Valley Resort—she stood atop the podium again, earning a second-place finish in dual moguls. Swiftly, Soar has secured her reputation as one of the most impressive female bumpers representing the sport the world over.
“My family and I were like, ‘Holy shit.’ Not only do I like this sport, but maybe I’m good at it.”
—Hannah Soar
Behind this competitor’s dedication is an even deeper passion. Winter is in her blood, and her earliest connections to skiing were fostered on and off the mountain. “I grew up in the Killington culture, where everyone is really friendly and skis all day,” she says. “Around age two, I’d get tired early. When I was done skiing, my parents would drop me in the arms of friends in the parking lot while they took more laps. In the second grade, I was behind in reading class, so they’d hand me off with a book. Here, your ski family becomes your real family.”

Soar grew up in Somers, Connecticut, and throughout her childhood, her parents swooped her up from school at 3 p.m. each Friday to drive 2.5 hours north to Killington, where skiing was a multigenerational family tradition. Soar’s grandparents were both skiers and bought their first condo at Killington in the mid-1970s; her dad and his siblings grew up skiing there; two of her uncles attended Killington Mountain School (KMS); and in the early ’80s, her grandparents purchased two more condos. Two decades later, in 2000, her parents bought their own condo at the base of the mountain.

At age eight, Soar entered her first-ever bumps contest, the iconic, costumes-welcome Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge (BMMC) that for three decades has ushered in Killington’s close-of-season festivities on Bear Mountain’s Outer Limits. The wide, half-mile-long trail is recognized as one of—if not the—steepest, gnarliest, most expansive mogul run in the East, and Soar calls the BMMC “the biggest amateur moguls event” in existence.
In her first year, she placed fourth overall among women. “Fourth- through first-place get their name on a trophy—it’s a big deal,” she says. “My family and I were like, ‘Holy shit.’ Not only do I like this sport, but maybe I’m good at it.”

Soar joined the Killington Ski Club and pursued B-level events in Vermont for the next couple of seasons until she tried and won her debut A-level competition, in 2011, at 11 years old while in the seventh grade. She leapt into the top-tier category as an eighth grader, yet another sign that she should pursue mogul skiing full-time. For ninth grade, she transferred to KMS and, during her junior year of high school, qualified for the U.S. Ski Team.

During those years, Soar was chiefly influenced by Killington icon Donna Weinbrecht, who, at the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics, won the gold medal in the debut of freestyle mogul skiing with a single twister spread on her second jump, exhibiting superior form and technique that earned her a score of 23.69, all while “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” by the Ramones blasted for the cheering crowd. Weinbrecht gave several speeches at KMS during Soar’s teenage years, which Soar says shaped her perspective and future as an athlete.
Hannah Soar
Donna Weinbrecht
Weinbrecht, much like Soar, grew up as a weekend warrior. In 1979—the same year the International Ski Federation acknowledged freestyle skiing as an official discipline—Weinbrecht’s family purchased a home at Killington. She was 14.

At the time, no base lodge existed at Killington, and skiers congregated on hay bales at the bottom of the runs. The following season Outer Limits was cut for alpine training, but it was too breakneck and unruly and became a mogul field. By 1981, the so-called rogues of the mountain had developed the BMMC, today one of the longest-standing springtime traditions at Killington.

“When I was growing up, the people who skied moguls were the anti-establishment,” Weinbrecht says. “You were not allowed to build a jump on natural moguls at Killington.” She noticed a team of KMS freestylers training together during those childhood weekends, and while she wasn’t seriously pursuing the sport—nor was she aware of the national moguls team—the self-taught skier decided to enter the freshly created BMMC at age 16 and says she was totally freaked out.
"When I was growing up, the people who skied moguls were the anti-establishment"
—Donna Weinbrecht
“It was incredible the amount of people that came to watch and hang out—and that was nerve-wracking,” says Weinbrecht, who won her first dual moguls run on day one, but crashed on her second. “I realized from that first competition that it didn’t serve me to get so scared. I almost couldn’t move my body, because I was so in my head. From then on, I was able to isolate and focus on what I wanted to do and how I trained. I reminded myself, this is what I love to do. I started going through a mantra at the top—banging my skis on the surface and being grateful for the opportunity. It frees you up for success.”

Then the BMMC boomed. “It almost looked like Woodstock, back in the day,” Weinbrecht says. “The owner of the Pasta Pot, the restaurant where I worked as a waitress at the base, would BBQ, which started a food culture alongside the moguls competition.”
“It was incredible the amount of people that came to watch and hang out—and that was nerve-wracking.—Donna Weinbrecht

One piece of sage Weinbrecht advice that’s stuck with Soar: Performance under pressure is key, but maintaining longevity as a skier hinges on staying true to your roots—keep it loose. “Donna is great at acknowledging that times have changed since she competed, but that the major themes of skiing are the same: have fun and do it because you enjoy it,” Soar says. “Donna embodies a love for mogul skiing, which I love to embody, too.”

Today, Soar attends New York’s Union College each spring, which is a two-hour drive from Killington, and she switches to taking online classes through the University of Connecticut during the fall. In the winter, she takes a break from virtual coursework, as certain stops along the World Cup circuit, like those in Japan and Kazakhstan, don’t always have stable WiFi. She hopes to be halfway finished with her degree by 2022.

“If I have two years of school done by the time I’m done skiing, that’d be most ideal,” she says. “I’ll be 22 years old, and I’m not sure I’ll want to ski for another four years after those Olympics. If I’m doing well and still enjoying it like I’m doing today, yes. If I’m satisfied and had a good career, and I’m ready to pursue a job and education, I’ll do that.”

What she can count on, though, is the team taper from April to May. Then, bets are on that Soar will be at Killington, taking laps with her 62-year-old parents and dozens of bump gangs, followed by evenings spent in the parking lot. “I can’t put into words how special it is to come back, know everyone, and for them to be super excited for my successes,” Soar says. “But at the same time, they really don’t care. They just want to see me happy.”

When Weinbrecht was a high school senior, KMS dropped its freestyle program due to insurance reasons, she recalls. So she got a USSA license to compete and juggled her race schedule alongside earning a fine arts degree at New Jersey’s Ridgewood School of Art and Design. But the school closed in 1985, which Weinbrecht considers a fateful twist that allowed her to focus on making the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team. In 1987, Weinbrecht made the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team at 23 years old.

“Coming from nothing to something was huge,” she says. “My parents didn’t think that I could make a livelihood being a professional athlete.” But she’d go on to become a three-time Olympian and would win 46 individual World Cup mogul events and seven U.S. National Championship titles. She also became the first woman in the sport of freestyle skiing to earn a contract with a ski-boot manufacturer.

“Outer Limits, and the people I skied with day to day at Killington, made me the skier I was on the Freestyle World Cup circuit,” Weinbrecht says. “Killington has always created strong skiers and is a hotbed for good mogul skiers.”

A hotbed it is. When Weinbrecht was still competing, she returned from tour and remembers spotting Soar as a young kid ripping up the slopes. “Her gravity was low; she had great motor skills, balance on her skis and precision,” Weinbrecht says. “I knew she was going somewhere. I’m really happy for Hannah.”

Soar’s sights are set on qualifying for the 2022 Beijing Olympics, where she hopes to stand on the podium like Weinbrecht did seven Winter Games ago. “I try to embody Donna’s free-bump style of the ’80s and ’90s,” Soar says. “I’ll ski at Killington with a blonde ponytail above my head—which is how Donna would and still skis today—and even when I was skiing in Zermatt, Switzerland, someone stopped to tell me, ‘You are just like Donna.’ It’s the biggest compliment.”

— Morgan Tilton
photography by Justin Cash, Dave Young, Courtesy Donna Weinbrecht, Courtesy Hannah Soar
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